Monday, 5 Dec 2022

Suburban Women, No Longer ‘Soccer Moms,’ Hold Key to Midterms

A caricature of the suburban female voter looms large in American politics. But in battleground regions, many voters don’t fit the stereotype — and perhaps, never did.

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By Dana Goldstein, Robert Gebeloff, Allison McCann and Brent McDonald

This piece was reported, photographed and filmed from Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin, Georgia, Washington, D.C., and New York.

The “soccer mom” was born a cliché.

Americans were introduced to her during the 1996 presidential race, when she was heralded by campaign consultants and the media as the new center of the American electorate — a white, married, minivan-steering, cleats-toting, home-owning swing voter, exhausted by culture wars and seeking optimistic, common-sense politics.

That year, so-called soccer moms broke for the Democratic incumbent, President Bill Clinton, over his Republican challenger, Bob Dole, a senator from Kansas. Mr. Clinton appealed to suburban women by signing a tough crime bill and promising to put reading tutors in schools.

A quarter century later, female suburban voters remain a key swing constituency and, amid the coronavirus pandemic, crime and education are again crucial concerns. But recent polls have shown that unlike in 1996, independent female voters are tilting toward Republicans.

Who are these influential voters? Does the “soccer mom” still exist? Did she ever?

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